There’s an oddly consistent pattern emerging from those so vehemently opposed to all things Sam Harris recently – let’s call them the “New Illiberals” – and who have a particular narrative that they simply cannot admit is wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I commented on how CJ Werleman’s endless obsession with Harris, has blinded him to the creeping racial bigotry in his own rhetoric. Werleman’s narrative relies on “new atheism” and Western countries being exclusively white skinned categories, thus dismissing all those atheists who are not white, and all those who have shaped the framework of Western countries, who happen to have a darker shade of skin. It’s primary objective is to demonise “New Atheists”, but its more insidious product is bigotry in itself. Last night, Aslan Media’s Nathan Lean – author of ‘The Islamophobia Industry‘ – commented on the release of a book by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris:
– There is so much wrong with this, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Perhaps a good place to begin, is the hypocrisy in a white man who writes on Islam, angry that a white man wrote on Islam. Or that Lean sees no hypocrisy in the fact that he is not Middle Eastern, and yet writes on the Middle East, whilst complaining that non-Muslims are writing about Islam. Or perhaps the grotesque idea that speaking on political or religious structures and dogma, is not to be measured on the strength of the argument, rather the ethnicity of the speaker. Which – in the interests of consistency – of course further implies, that white Muslims are not to be considered ‘real‘ Muslims. Or the bizarre inclusion of Sam Harris’ profession. But most tellingly, is how Lean consciously ignored Maajid Nawaz’ contribution to the book. I suspect the deliberate omission is down to the fact that Maajid simply doesn’t fit Lean’s nice little boxed-in narrative, that permits only white folk the ability to argue that Islamism is not entirely the direct result of Western imperialism, & that maybe there’s a dogma issue too. Thus, it is simply easier to ignore (or just dismiss) the contributions and debate points of non-white critics, or non-Western critics, rather than acknowledge that criticism of ideas – religious or political – and interpretations is universal, transcending ethnic, cultural, national, and gender boundaries, and that the narrative of white supremacy, is simply wrong.
Reading Irshad Manji’s book ‘Allah, Liberty, & Love‘, we are introduced to Muslims across the World who do not fit into groupthink conservative category that both conservative Muslims and their western apologists wish they did. They have their own minds, they are open to debate and criticism, but they are far too often silenced by fear of upsetting the prevailing conservative & tribal ideas within the religion. These people must be supported and defended by anyone worthy of title ‘liberal’. By boxing people in, and taking away their agency as Lean does, he simply gives support to power structures that rely on controlling the thoughts and words, instead of giving support to those who challenge orthodoxy.
When Lean was questioned on his comments, he dug himself an even deeper racist-sized hole:
– Whilst the rest of us see a collaboration between Nawaz and Harris as two people having a conversation and sharing thoughts, Lean sees the book as a white supremacist, and his non-white ‘validator‘. Note the set-up is that the white man, is the one leading, thus denying the brown-skinned Muslim man an independent thought. Why not argue that Sam Harris is the ‘validator‘ to Maajid Nawaz? This is the racism inherent to trying to silence criticism of one idea, by falsely linking criticism to ethnicity, and then desperately clinging to it when it’s quite clearly false. You end up boxing thoughts and ideas into very specific groups by skin tone, and then you have to try to justify it when it’s clear that it isn’t true. Which of course, makes your case even worse.
For example, here Lean was forced into a decision; either accept the narrative is wrong, or try to save-face by working around it. He chose the latter option, and dismissed Nawaz as simply a pawn, a victim, that the white guy used to ‘facilitate‘ his agenda, thus protecting the failed narrative. The implication is that non-White Muslims just aren’t capable of thinking or speaking outside of a framework set by people like Lean. It isn’t even subtle in its racist overtones, it is blatant racism. The implication is that Nawaz couldn’t possibly think outside of the neat little box that Lean assumes all Muslims must fit into; all angry victims of Western aggression, and in need of Western apologists to defend their honour. This way of dismissing non-white critics of Islamism, was a tool similarly utilised a few weeks back by CJ Werleman, when he dismissed Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
“Case in point: Somali-born, anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is feted by the New Atheist movement. Her most staunch supporters include celebrity New Atheists Harris, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins.”
– Ayaan Hirsi Ali isn’t considered part of the “New Atheist movement“, she’s simply “feted” by them. Werleman refers to “New Atheists” as “anti-Theist“, and by that standard, Ali – alongwith plenty of other atheists Worldwide – fit into his “New Atheist” standard. The only way they don’t, is the colour of their skin. Werleman has put a “white’s only” sign above the “New Atheist” door, and then accused those same “New Atheists” of being white supremacists. It’s a nasty little hypocritical game of bigotry in an attempt to silence, that Lean followed to the letter, in a desperate attempt to uphold their failed narrative, and that will always backfire.
Lean began by simply not acknowledging that Maajid Nawaz was a joint part of the book with Sam Harris. When faced with questioning, Lean then dismissed Nawaz as someone unable to think for himself given that he doesn’t fit Lean’s narrative, and is simply an unsuspecting conduit for the white guy’s neo-con agenda. The wrong type of Muslim. Contrary to this failed narrative; those who seek to explain and defeat Islamism using a wider context than simply presenting it as a response to Western aggression, are not just white, they are not just Western, they are not just male, nor are they just blue eyed, or just tall, or any other neat little box that the ‘New Illiberals‘ try to box us all into. We are all people with our own thoughts, and for all illiberals, that very fundamentally recognised and promoted liberty is dangerous.